The Palate: uncovering Oddbins’ top talent
If a group of civilians being put through their paces by “veterans” at a boot camp sounds familiar, perhaps you’ve been watching BBC2’s Special Forces Ultimate Hell Week. Or maybe, like me and 36 of Oddbins most talented customers, you participated in Oddbins’ The Palate semi-finals.
Together with fellow “veterans/” judges and mentors Susie Barrie MW and Peter Richards MW of Saturday Kitchen fame, we spent Saturday putting the semi-finalists through their paces. The three of us prepare our very own “bootcamp” – exercises designed to groom and enhance our campers’ raw tasting talent and, the tough bit, whittle our group of 12 down to four finalists each.
While the challenges posed by the US Navy SEALS veterans in episode one of Special Forces included getting their campers as wet as possible yet still able to yell hooyah! through chattering teeth, it was more a case of Hi–de–Hi! and hurrah! on Saturday as we whet our campers’ palates with benchmark examples of wines from across the world.
I topped and tailed my 20 wine challenge with two favourites from Oddbins’ range – Mount Horrocks Watervale Riesling 2013 (Clare Valley, South Australia) and Sandemans Late Bottled Vintage Port 2009 (Porto, Portugal), both in fine form. The Riesling is a terrific example of Watervale’s exuberant lime with terrific line, the latter a cocoa-dusted intensely spicy, fruity, concentrated affair – the perfect foil for dark chocolate. This combo is surely every clever campers store cupboard treat!
In and amongst highlights included the fresh, very deftly oaked Radford Dale Chardonnay 2012 (Helderberg, Stellenbosch, South Africa), Stockmans Station Pinot Noir 2014 (Central Otago, NZ) with its violet top notes, a touch of beetroot bass and a ruffle of suede tannins, the earthier, spicier Fiore di Vigna Primitivo 2011 (Salento, Puglia, Italy) which introduced my campers to the complex delights of the appassimento technique and a very old staff favourite from my Oddbins’ days Gimmonet Premier Cru NV (Champagne) – great class in a glass for £30.